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22 mummies are moved in a glittering display in Cairo
A performer dressed in ancient Egyptian costume looks on at the start of the parade of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies departing from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square on April 3, 2021, on their way to their new resting place at the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC) about seven kilometres south in historic Fustat (Old Cairo). Dubbed the Pharaohs' Golden Parade, the 18 kings and four queens will travel in order, oldest first, each aboard a separate float decorated in ancient Egyptian style. Mahmoud KHALED / AFP.

by Mona El-Naggar



CAIRO (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Downtown Cairo came to a near standstill Saturday night as 22 mummies were moved from a museum where they had resided for more than a century to a new home, transported atop custom-made vehicles in a glittering, meticulously planned procession.

The fanfare — broadcast live on state television and complete with a military band, a 21-gun salute and a host of Egyptian A-list celebrities — served as both a grand opening of sorts for the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, where the country’s oldest monarchs were set to land, and an invitation to tourists to return to Cairo after the pandemic.

“These are the mummies of kings and queens who ruled during Egypt’s golden age,” said Zahi Hawass, a former minister of antiquities who supervised the discovery of tombs that date back thousands of years. “It’s a thrill, everyone will watch.”

Everyone, except many Egyptians.

Along the 5-mile path to the new museum lay stretches of working-class neighborhoods that were deliberately hidden from view ahead of the parade, a reminder of the jarring divide between Egypt’s celebrated past and its uncertain present.

Banners proclaiming the “Pharaohs’ Golden Parade” and large national flags prevented television viewers from peering inside Cairo’s impoverished areas and kept local residents from getting a glimpse of the polished, made-for-TV spectacle. In one spot, plastic screens at least 10 feet tall were mounted on scaffolding to close gaps in a cream-colored wall.

In a television interview, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities credited President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for conceiving of the public procession as a way to draw tourists back after the pandemic brought international travel to a halt last year.

But the spectacle also underlined the economic and social divisions in Egypt’s capital.

“There is a tendency to try to show a better picture instead of fixing the existing reality,” Ahmed Zaazaa, an urban planner, said of the government’s public-image efforts. “The government says they are making reforms, but the vast majority of people in Cairo who live in working-class neighborhoods are excluded.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company










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